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Lord Goldsmith: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord will know better than I do. I believe that the Sentencing Guidelines Council is looking at this issue. If not, I agree that it ought to do so. Of course, the decision as to what the sanction should be is for the courts to determine. But, at the same timeI wonder whether the noble and learned Lord would agree; I suspect that he wouldrespect for the court's order is also extremely important. So, even though the order was originally imposed for conduct which might not of itself have resulted in imprisonment, not respecting an order which has been imposed by the court may well justify the court in now saying that custody is the only step to take.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that one of the most welcome features of the new policy on prostitution announced by the Home Office yesterday is the
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emphasis on encouraging prostitutes to seek treatment for drug addiction and to seek help with leaving the sex industry? That being so, will he confirm that one of the consequences will be that fewer ASBOs will be served on prostitutes in future, which I think most people in the industryI mean, most people in societyrecognise is an inappropriate way of dealing with the problem?
Lord Grocott: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Commons Bill, have consented to place their Prerogative and Interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment addresses the need to persuade the Secretary of State and the Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government to fund the administration costs of commons registration authorities. I tabled this amendment because there is great concern among commons registration authoritiesthat is, in the local authoritiesthat this legislation will create a considerable amount of work. The work will include computerised mapping, the translation to computers of maps from 1905, which, in some local authorities, mostly demarcate the well known boundaries of commons in their locality. It is painstaking work that requires a great deal of accuracy. The level of human resources needed to carry out the time-consuming work of implementing electronic registersit is certainly not required of commons registration authorities in all local authoritiesis expensive. The legislation must be effective and effectively run. Our question is whether the Government want the legislation to be successful. It will not be unless resources are adequate to cover a massive land area of England and Walesin the area that I come from, one-third of the land area.
The subject was raised in Committee and, as I am sure the Minister knows, in a meeting between commons registration authorities and Defra in the first half of 2005, in Cheltenham. The information from that meeting was that around £100,000 would be available. In the comments made to me, given the magnitude of the task that I described, that sum was felt to be wholly inadequate to meet the job that the commons registration authorities will have as a result of the legislation. I think that I have made the point very clearly on this amendment; therefore, I beg to move.
The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, should the Minister in his benevolence decide that he accepts this amendment, I hope that he will explain to the House and to everyone outside on what justification the taxpayer should have to fork out yet again to help the farmers to set up something that might be in their own interests.
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Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, this matter was discussed in Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, said, and I thought that we had got through that discussion, so I hope that the Minister will resist the amendmenton the grounds, as the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said, that this matter should be resolved by those interested in the business and not at the expense of the taxpayer or the council tax payer.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I have sympathy with the amendment because whetherfollowing on from the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvelit is the taxpayer in paying central taxes or us paying taxes at a local level, the cost must be met by someone. The matter was raised at earlier stages of consideration, and it was suggested to the noble Lord that he put it to a vote at that time, so I understand why he has come back with it.
This is an important point; the process will cost money and the Government know that it will cost money. In the response that I had on Report the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, said that the funding,
Have the Government given any more thought to that? Have they decided how it will be targeted, or will that be left to each individual authority to decide when they bring it forward? No real assurance was givenand I do not believe that we have received a follow-up letteron what the Government have in mind about how it would be organised.
The figure of £100,000 is fairly near what was quoted; if you divide that among the various local authorities, it is peanuts in certain areasand obviously not applicable in others. Although the noble Lord had a slightly rough ride on Report, this question should be answered, and at this stage we have not had it answered. I hope that the Minister will be able to do that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Bach): My Lords, the amendment would require the Government to fund the costs of commons registration authorities in meeting the additional burdens imposed by Part 1. Our position on funding the costs of Part 1 is quite clear, but let me briefly repeat our case.
The Government are committed to funding new burdens placed on local authorities. So it is that local authorities will be provided with funding from the Government for any new burdens arising under this Bill, including those relating to updating the registers, in so far as they are not met by funding from other sources, such as fees. Funding for Welsh local authorities will of course be a matter for the National Assembly.
When the Bill merely retains existing duties on commons registration authorities, arising under the Commons Registration Act 1965, we will not be providing additional funding. In particular, that includes the requirement on authorities to keep
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commons registers. But Defra will provide additional funding to authorities for new or enhanced duties that arise from the Bill.
Once the registers are up to date, it will be incumbent on authorities and those with an interest in common land to fulfil their statutory responsibilities. People will generally need to pay fees for amendments to the registers, and authorities must keep the registers up to date. Funding will not be provided for those activities that are funded through fees, nor for applications to register new town or village greens which are already funded other than to the extent that new regulations may place new burdens on registration authorities. Where fees are waived or reduced in the public interest, then that too will need to be taken into account.
The costs of bringing the registers up to date are expected to vary greatly between local authorities, but the overall costs are not expected to be high. The regulatory impact assessment contains estimates of new costs and copies have been placed in the Library of the House. The assessment will be updated in the usual way at Royal Assent.
We expect to roll out the implementation of Part 1 by beginning with a pilot scheme in a small number of registration authority areas. The identification of those pilot areas, and the amount of the required funding, will be considered as part of that pilot programme and in association with the Local Government Association.
We propose to target resources initially, so that additional funding hits the mark. The pilot programme will also enable us to refine the question of costs, and seek agreement on a formula which can be applied across English commons registration authorities.
Finally, we will also be working with registration authorities over the months ahead to establish the new association of commons registration officers on a sound footing. That will provide an important medium for communication between officers, Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government, and I am pleased to report that there is already real enthusiasm among registration officers to take this project forward. I see a valuable role for the association in helping us to implement the Bill in a practical and cost-effective manner.
I was asked why the taxpayer should have to pay. The Bill reflects the fact that there is a public interest in the management of common land and in ensuring that the registers are brought up to date. As I say, the cost arising from any new aspects of the Bill will be met from both user fees and public funding.
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